Whatever You Do

God wants us to find pleasure in our daily living, but striking a balance is essential.

Among the many dilemmas Christians face while trying to live “in but not of” this world is the question of whether it’s appropriate to pursue pleasure. Especially in affluent areas of the world, pleasure is easy—and often cheap—to come by. We can become so bloated by the glut of entertainment and recreational activities available to us that we make ourselves sick, both figuratively and literally.

It’s no surprise that the Bible gives ample warnings about mindlessly running after pleasure. But is enjoyment always wrong? Is all pleasure bad? Isn’t there any room in God’s call to holiness for us to enjoy the life He has blessed us with? What about having hobbies? Hanging out with friends?

Although there isn’t a chapter in the Bible titled “Paul’s Teachings on Sports” or “The Parable of the Quilter,” Scripture is generous with guidelines on these issues.

READ

Let’s first look at the cautions God gives us regarding the pursuit of pleasure. Read Proverbs 20:13 and Proverbs 21:17 and 1 Timothy 5:6. Each of these passages warns that poverty is the inevitable result of laziness and hedonism. Someone who lounges about all day watching TV, playing video games, gossiping on the phone, or gorging on food instead of being productive will eventually pay a price. Remember that poverty can take different forms; it may mean financial ruin but can also include bodily illness, broken relationships, and loss of joy. Physical pleasure, when pursued in isolation from other positive aspects of life, quickly reduces to distinct displeasure.

Isn’t there any room in God’s call to holiness for us to enjoy the life He has blessed us with?

Read Luke 8:14. When Jesus told the parable of the sower in Luke 8, He listed pleasure among the thorns that can choke the seed of the gospel in a person’s life. Worries and troubles aren’t the only things that distract spiritually; riches and pleasure can thwart us, too.

If we allow ourselves to be led into sin and selfishness at the expense of spiritual growth, pleasure has clearly become our god. Yet can a Christian play and enjoy opportunities to be creative, active, social, or restful?

Read 1 Timothy 6:17. Scripture tells us that God “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” The Lord does want us to experience enjoyment. Contrary to popular skepticism, God is not a grumpy old schoolmaster ready to rap our knuckles if we so much as giggle, let alone do something fun. Our heavenly Father created a world bursting with wonders that delight our senses, stir our souls, and even make us laugh. He also created us with the capacity to enjoy pleasure. And think about Jesus: Though Scripture doesn’t come right out and say He grinned, isn’t it hard to imagine Him not smiling when He attended a wedding, healed the lame and blind, and returned people like Lazarus to life (Mark 8:23-25, John 2:1-2, John 5:6-9, John 11:38-44)?

The secret to true and guilt-free pleasure is to first discern and reject what masquerades as pleasure-giving and then to learn to enjoy what is genuinely beautiful and pleasing. Read Psalm 37:4-5 and Matthew 6:33. When we start by delighting in the Lord and seeking His will, joy, contentment, and fulfillment follow swiftly. If we can derive pleasure from simple things—and gratitude because we see them for the gifts they are—how much more will we be able to enjoy engaging in our favorite activities and hobbies? We can experience joy when we are . . .

1. Right with God (i.e., free of guilt or fear).

2. Right with others (i.e., free of anger or hatred).

3. Using our gifts and talents to glorify God and to bless others.

REFLECT

Consider for a moment how you’ve been created in God’s image. What do these verses tell you about whether God can and does experience pleasure? Haggai 1:8, Luke 10:21, Zephaniah 3:17

With regard to pleasure, what do the following verses tell you about God’s will for believers? Psalm 16:11, Psalm 21:1-6, Psalm 37:3, 11, 19, Ecclesiastes 2:26, Ecclesiastes 5:19, Philippians 4:4, 8-9 

RESPOND

Think of a few activities that give you pleasure, whether physical, emotional, or mental. How does the short-term enjoyment you get from those activities compare with the long-term benefits?

Pray that God will help you discern whether the things that give you pleasure are also pleasing to Him.

When you spend time in activities you enjoy, ask God to reveal if you’re being:

1. Submissive—Are you willing to forgo an activity if He calls you to do something more important or urgent?

2. Self-controlled—Does that activity take more of your time, attention, and energy than it should?

3. Financially responsible—How much of your resources do you spend on this activity? Would you be a better steward of those resources by using them elsewhere for God’s glory?

4. Generous—Do you let others enjoy your hobby by inviting them to participate with you? Do you bless others by sharing with them the outcome of your activity?

5. Humble and modest—Do you boast about your activity to the point that others feel awkward, tempted, or inferior?

REVISIT

Read through all of Psalm 37 and write down your observations in two lists—first, what displeases the Lord (and ultimately harms us), and second, what pleases Him (and ultimately us).

Keep mental track of (or journal about) the time you spend on leisure activities this week. Make a note of what left you feeling empty or guilty and what brought you true pleasure and joy.


Related Topics:  Self-control

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What happens to my notes

13 Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.

17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.

6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.

14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

23 Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, Do you see anything?"

24 And he looked up and said, I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around."

25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;

2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you wish to get well?"

7 The sick man answered Him, Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."

8 Jesus said to him, Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."

9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

39 Jesus said, Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days."

40 Jesus said to her, Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"

41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.

42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me."

43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth."

44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, Unbind him, and let him go."

4 Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

8 Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the LORD.

21 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

17 The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

1 O LORD, in Your strength the king will be glad, And in Your salvation how greatly he will rejoice!

2 You have given him his heart's desire, And You have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.

3 For You meet him with the blessings of good things; You set a crown of fine gold on his head.

4 He asked life of You, You gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever.

5 His glory is great through Your salvation, Splendor and majesty You place upon him.

6 For You make him most blessed forever; You make him joyful with gladness in Your presence.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

11 But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance.

26 For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God's sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind.

19 Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

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